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Signs of Substance Use Disorder in Teens

Substance use disorder, also known as addiction, can be one of the most difficult diseases for parents to recognize in their children.

One of the difficulties in recognizing it stems from secrecy and the fact that those in active addiction are often good at hiding their behavior from their family and friends. Therefore, it’s important to listen to your child and pay attention to the following signs:

  • Weight changes

  • Dilated or constricted pupils

  • Bloodshot or glazed eyes

  • Lack of eye contact

  • Poor hygiene (different or worse than usual)

  • Bruises or infections of the skin

  • Changes in personality or attitude

  • Increased aggression or irritability

  • Sudden change in friends or social circles

  • No longer having friends over

  • Leaving the house quickly so parents can’t interact with friends

  • Grades in school drop

  • Sudden interest in taking walks, walking the dog, etc.

  • Depression or isolation

  • Many naps and sleeping throughout the day

  • Dramatic changes in priorities

  • Financial problems

  • Stealing small items (change, gift cards, etc.) and moving onto bigger items

  • Missing items they “lost,” more than likely sold or traded

  • Being sneaky, but when caught, playing it off like a joke

  • Head down, shoulders slouched, hoodies pulled up covering most of their face

If you feel that your child may be suffering from substance use disorder, please contact Jennifer Belemu, PRS, Heartland High School’s Recovery Coach, at or (614) 260-7915. For more information about Heartland High School, visit

Parents are also invited to reach out to Melissa Murphy, Heartland High School’s Parent Coach. Melissa has walked the same path as parents of children with substance use disorder; her son is in recovery. To reach out to Melissa, contact or (614) 915-8853.

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